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“ Show me any precedent wherever presbyterial govern“ ment and regal was together, without perpetual rebel“ lions; which was the cause that necessitated the king, “ my father, to change that government in Scotland. And “ even in France, where they are but upon tolerance, “ (which in likelihood should cause moderation) did they “ ever sit still so long as they had power to rebel ? And it “ cannot be otherwise, for the ground of their doctrine is “ anti-monarchical. Indeed to prove that clearly, would
require more time, and a better pen than I have. I will " say, without hyperbole, that there was not a wiser man “ since Solomon, than he who said—no bishop, no king.” To this the enlightened and cordial friends of the monarch, and of the Church of England just named, made the following reply. “If by conscience your meaning is, that “ you are obliged to do all that is in your power to support « and maintain that function of bishops, as that which is " the most ancient, reverend, and pious government of the “ church-we fully and heartily concur with you therein. " But if by conscience is intended to assert, that episcopacy “ is jure divino exclusive, whereby no Protestant (or rą. “ther Christian) church, can be acknowledged for such “ without a bishop, we must therein crave leave wholly to “ differ. And if we be in error, we are in good company ; “ there not being (as we have cause to believe) SIX PERSONS OF THE PROTESTANT RELIGION OF THE OTHER OPIN
Thus much we can add, that, at the treaty of Ux“ bridge, NONE OF YOUR DIVINES THEN PRESENT, (though “ much provoked thereunto) would MAINTAIN THAT (we
MIGHT SAY UNCHARITABLE) OPINION ; no, not privately " among your commissioners.”
The men who wrote ihus, were intelligent, well informed men, true sons of the church, and intimately conversant with the leading ecclesiastics as well as civilians,
* CLARENDON's State Papers, Vol. 11 p 260. 274, 202.
in the kingdom. And yet they could say, with confidence, that they did not believe there were SIX PERSONS of the protestant religion” who entertained the exclusive opinion which they reprobate.
The truth is, as long as doctrinal orthodoxy, and piety had a general prevalence in the Church of England, which, it is well known, was the case prior to the administration of Archbishop Laud, the high-church claims which I am opposing, had very few advocates among the truly learned and respectable divines of that church.
It was only when evangelical truth and spirituality greatly declined, that claims so much at war with reason, with scripture, and with the communion of saints, began to be popular. And. I have no doubt that it may be maintained, as a general position, that, from that time to the present, the doctrine in question has found most favour with the worldly and heterodox part of the English establishment; and been most disbelieved and opposed by the truly evangelical and exemplary portion both of the clergy and people.
V. Again; the advocates of the high church and exclusive doctrine which is here opposed, will appear, when their case is examined, liable to the charge of EXTREME PRESUMPTUOUSNESS. When we see a very small sect, in a great religious community, turning away, like the Pharisees of old, from all contact with the rest of their brethren; alleging that their little body alone is in the right way, and that all the rest of mankind are outcasts and reprobates;we, instinctively, recoil from such a claim as arrogant and presumptuous in a high degree; and demand that the evidence in its support be uncommonly clear and unquestionable. It is very possible, indeed, that a small minority may be right, nay, the only body. in the world that is right. This was actually the case with the “ little flock” which the Saviour gathered in the days of his flesh, and who were"every where spoken against.” But then that “ little Aock” was armed with a power and an evidence which
ought to have convinced the whole world. But when every thing of this kind is wanting :—when without evidence, nay, in spite of the strongest evidence to the contrary, a small body, with the narrowest prejudices, and the most determined exclusiveness, sets up a claim which not only virtually, but formally and necessarily places all the immense majority who differ from it, in the situation of aliens from all the gracious promises of heaven ;-every impartial judge will pronounce such a body liable to a charge of presumptuousness as offensive as it is groundless.
When the reformation from popery took place, it became a question with all the reformed churches, throughout Európe, what form of government they would adopt ? It would have been just as easy for them to adopt the prelatical as any other; nay easier. It was that to which they had been all accustomed for a number of centuries. And there was no difficulty in the way of their prelates, if they had chosen to have them, obtaining a regular canonical investiture. There was a sufficient number of bishops who came over from the Romish church to the Protestant, to have peopled the whole ecclesiastical world with their order, if it had been deemed desirable. What, then, was the fact? Why that all the reformers on the continent of Europe, without one solitary exception, declared in favour of the doctrine of ministerial parity, as the truly primitive and apostolic doctrine; acknowledged prelacy to be a human invention; universally sanctioned the principle of Presbyterian ordination ; and when any of them gave to certain ministers a kind of superintending power, uniformly declared, that they did not consider it as founded at all in scripture, but as a mere matter of human prudence, adapted to the secular circumstances in which particular communities were placed. To this statement in reference to the reformers on the continent of Europe, I cannot recollect a single exception. Now, I ask, could men have been possibly placed in circumstances more favourable to an in
telligent and impartial decision of this question ? For, in the first place, they were learned men ; a number of them transcendently so. Then the great body of them were fervently pious, devoted men, who gave abundant evidence that they searched the scriptures diligently, and were incapable of departing from their conscientious convictions of truth and duty. Men who evinced so much of the spirit of martyrs, cannot be suspected of compromising what they honestly believed to be the will of God in this concern. Again, they were placed in circumstances which left them perfectly unshackled in their decision of this matter. The civil rulers, every where, so far as I have been able to learn, left them at perfect liberty to adopt that form of ecclesiastical government which they judged to be most for edification. Yet, in these circumstances, they all --ALLLutherans and Reformed, came to the same conclusion. I repeat it—these learned, godly, devoted men—whether in Germany or France, whether in Holland or Switzerland, whether in Sweden Denmark or Scotland,-without any particular concert, and while they differed widely on some other points—in reference to this came to the same conclusion ;—all agreed that the primitive, apostolic plan was that of ministerial parity ; that Presbyterian ordination was not only just as valid as any other, but most conformed to the scriptural model; and that wherever this model was in any degree departed from, the variation was, of course, to be referred merely to human prudence, which a majority of them supposed might lawfully be exercised in modifying and arranging matters of church government. Now these are, verily, most marvellous facts, if, as modern high-churchmen tell us, the evidence in fayour of prelacy, from scripture and early antiquity, is clear, undoubted, and such as all honest, impartial inquirers cannot but see and acknowledge. Were all the great and good men who conducted the reformation on the European continent so smitten with blindness, or so perverted by prejudice, as not to be able to perceive that which some
would persuade us is as clear to every sober inquirer as the light of day; or, seeing it, were they so unprincipled as to set conscience and divine authority all at defiance?
While this universal and most wonderful concurrence of opinion in favour of ministerial parity, as taught in scripture, pervaded the reformed churches on the continent of Europe, without a single exception, and also in North Britain ; England stood Alone in adopting a different plan of ecclesiastical government; and the reasons of her adopting this plan are too manifest to be mistaken by the most superficial inquirer. In that country the movements in favour of the reformation were begun by the monarch; not, as all the world knows, from any love to truth or piety, but under the impulse of his pride and voluptuousness. Having, from these unworthy motives, broken off from the papal see, and made himself pope in his own dominions, instead of the Roman Pontiff, he ordered every thing, in the church as well as the state, with despotic sway, and received no more of the principles of the enlightened and holy men on the continent than suited his own blind and unworthy policy. When Henry VIII. died, which was not until the year after Luther had finished his work in Germany, and gone to his blessed reward ; England might still be said to be a popish country ; Protestant, indeed, in name; but really and effectually disburdened of no important part of that mass of superstition in doctrine and order which had so long depressed and corrupted Christendom. Some progress in the hallowed work of reformation was made in the next reign; but by reason of the minority and feebleness of the amiable king, every thing was in the hands of the bishops and nobles, who would naturally be disposed to retain that form of ecclesiastical government to which they had been accustomed, and especially which they were tempted to prefer as involving the continuance of their own honours. The reformation could not really be said to be established in England until